Florida Nightmare: Wrongly Diagnosed with MS

Perhaps by now you have heard the story of Sean Orr, a physician at Baptist Medical Center, Jacksonville, Florida, who has been exposed for diagnosing people with multiple sclerosis when they really didn’t have it. The story aired on NBC Nightly News, August 18, and is all over social media. The MS Community is shaking their head at this story and many shaken enough to question their own care as well.

This neurologist was head of a hospital neurology department and was smooth enough to con people into believing they had MS, then prescribing costly drugs and even more, he did costly procedures on them and profited from it. None of these drugs or tests were necessary. He earned a six figure salary in excess of a half-million dollars, depending on how many patients he saw and he took additional fees of another quarter million dollars or so, from consulting for pharmaceutical companies. He built a reputation of being a top MS doctor on the false cases he built for these patients. He also earned a tremendous amount of money on that reputation.

I can’t imagine which would come first – relief or anger if I had been one of his patients. I certainly would have felt both and a lot more. All of us with MS know how life altering the words ‘you have MS’ has on everything we do. There is that ever present question of what is coming next that can’t be shaken off or left behind. The harm he has done is irreparable – his victims will never recover from this betrayal of trust.

If you are on the internet much and in patient forums then you may have heard a person or two who was mistakenly misdiagnosed with MS, but it wasn’t done by a licensed physician who is facing a criminal investigation over the matter. It seems he had a very lavish lifestyle, financed by all the money made off of his large number of patients, and especially because they were prescribed drugs and tests they didn’t need.

This is a good time to discuss second opinions and their importance.  One of the women interviewed in the national news story about her diagnosis said she went to several other doctors and was told she didn’t have MS, but she still chose to believe Dr. Orr, because he couldn’t possibly be wrong. The other people interviewed said they had no reason to even question their diagnosis – Dr. Orr was that good of a con man. “Greedy con man” was the description used by federal officers who are investigating.

So how do we determine the doctor who we trust with our care is legitimate? A lot of it has to do with faith- I for one believe that Sean Orr is the exception rather than the rule. People don’t go into medicine normally to harm others; I have to believe that much to even step into a doctor’s office. But that faith can also be backed up by a second opinion from another doctor, who practices in a different place than your first one. I’ll admit, I have not had a second opinion, but my MRIs have been viewed by many specialists for various studies and my MS has the classic display of lesions. The MRI images have been read by radiologists who are in different parts of the state even and the opinion is unanimous – I have a demyelinating disorder. My neurologist also suggested that if I had questions, he would have no problem with me getting a second opinion. All of this is enough for me to go on – my MS is real.

There is nothing wrong with getting a second opinion, especially when it comes to a chronic disease like MS. The diagnosis is hard for many people to get and even harder at times to believe. If you have doubts about your own MS, it doesn’t hurt to get that second evaluation, especially for your own peace of mind.

As for Sean Orr – he has settled financially over a charge of fraudulent billing and paid $150,000 to the government, but he still has his medical license and is in practice in Panama City, Florida. He defends his work and says there is just a difference of opinion in the medical community. Other physicians said Orr used different diagnostic criteria than they did, but they stop just short of saying what he did was wrong. There will be legal cases filed and I hope the people who were taken down this nightmarish path are given the opportunity to be heard in court. There is also talk he may face criminal charges.

I am disgusted by this case, as I am sure everyone who has heard of it feels, and just like keeping faith in the majority of the medical system, I  have faith our legal system will have the final say and Orr will pay for this misuse of power and trust.

Wishing you well,

Laura

Information from this story is taken from NBC Nightly News Report, originally aired August 18, 2015.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

View Comments (2)
  • Artanis12
    4 years ago

    “Other physicians said Orr used different diagnostic criteria than they did, but they stop just short of saying what he did was wrong”

    And therein lies the problem, in a nutshell – lack of clarity and spine. There is the TRUE epidemic these days. He used a different diagnostic criteria, when every other doctor dealing with MS uses the same well-defined and well-disseminated one? How can any doctor coyly call this a simple “difference of opinion” and not a massive ethical breach in light of the harm done to his patients and his financial enrichment from that harm?

    Without real censure – with real teeth – from other doctors, and from regulatory bodies at the state level, this sort of stuff will NOT be adequately addressed and will continue to happen. There is zero reason for this man to have kept his license, and yet he has, and the glaring lack of condemnation from all the other supposedly good doctors, makes them complicit. This is not justice, and my enforced vulnerability in the doctor-patient relationship is not enough to make me, of necessity, simply hope that our legal system will actually be up to the task in this case.

  • David23
    4 years ago

    Why does this doctor still have his liscense. Dr. Orr should have lost his medical liscense. Big pharma is always trying to push drugs on all of us most times the drugs are useless and dont work ,just make you sicker, dont vaccinate and always look at drugs negative effects before taking.

  • Poll